Reflections for the Week of December 24, 2017 Fourth of Advent

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38 is the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel that she would conceive through the power of the Most High and bear a Son whose name would be Jesus and and He would occupy the throne of His ancestor David forever. These are amazing prophecies which Christians are promised. The name ‘Jesus’ (Heb. Yeshua, Joshua) means ‘God saves’ and Mt 1:21 says that ‘He (Jesus) will save His people from their sins. “The sin for which God departed from the Temple and for which Israel was taken into captivity in 586 BC was idolatry, worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. God had promised to return (Isa 40:3-5, 9-10; 52:7-10; Ezek 43:1-4; Hag 2:7; Zech 2:10-11; Mal 3:1-4) but  had not done so until  Jesus appeared  as God incarnate. This is an important sense of Jesus” forgiveness of sins: to enable those alienated from God  to return to a relationship Him. In another sense, believers in Jesus have died with Him in their baptism and been raised with Him in His resurrection, and this means they have died to sin (Rm 6:2,3,6,7,10,11,18,22). The Scriptures also say  that believers have died to the law (Rm 6:14; 7:4,6), and that “apart from the law sin was dead” (Rm 7:8). Just as the civil law of a state defines crime and condemns it by prescribing punishment, so the Mosaic Law (Torah) defined sin (“for by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Rm 3:20; 7:7). St Paul says the law is a curse in that it condemns unbelievers for failing to keep the law (Gal 3:10) and that Christ has redeemed believers from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). He says further that “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18). Justification (Rm 3:24) means being declared “in the right” (innocent, vindicated, exonerated)  by God by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10) because Christ is in believers  (Gal 2:20; Col 1:27) and believers have been adopted as sons/children by God (Rm 8:15,16; Gal 4:6,7). N. T. Wright points out that the forgiveness and remission of sins is not a matter of the believer’s behavior (we all fail to keep the law perfectly) but of a new status, a new identity that they have through faith and  having died and been raised with Christ and being “in Him.” This does not imply antinomianism, i.e., that we deny the law or flout it (Rm 6:1,2), but rather that we are no longer under the dominion of sin or the law (Rm 6:14) but are under the dominion of grace, mercy, and the Spirit of Christ (Rm 8:5-17). Christ forgave the sins of those He healed in the Gospels and forgave the woman taken in adultery (Jn 8:1-11). “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus …for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8.1,2). We all who were sinners and under the power and dominion of sin and were under the curse of the law that condemns sinners have been transferred to the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and are now called saints (1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:2)   (note the small ’s’). This is the name given those who are “in Christ” and are led by His Spirit and do not walk according to the flesh (Rm 8:1) whose sins have been forgiven and washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Regardless of what you may have done before Christ redeemed you and adopted you, your sins have been forgiven (and forgotten by God who sees you in Christ His Son) and there is therefore no reason for guilt, only gratitude and praise. Yes, we have all been sinners (1 Jn 1:8), but He has cleansed us who are His  of all  sin (1Jn 1:7; 1 Jn 3:6,9). Merry Christmas!!

Memory Verse: Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Rm 8:33,34).

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